Monday Notes: Finally, A Government; Hayden’s Focus on AQ in Pakistan; Taliban Talk; End of NAB

Pervez Musharraf swore in the 24-member federal cabinet today. No real surprises. Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Ahmed Mukhtar of the People’s Party (PPP) are, respectively, foreign minister and defense minister. Their public positions have largely called for a continuity in the government’s war on terror and relations with the United States. Another major player in the foreign affairs ministry will be Husain Haqqani, who leaves Boston University and the Hudson Institute to serve as ambassador-at-large. He will likely become ambassador to the United States in July, when Mahmud Ali Durrani’s term expires. Durrani, a former military general appointed by Musharraf, was also close to Benazir Bhutto and will likely take up a post in Islamabad with the new government.

Apparently, an interior minister was not appointed. Aftab Sherpao, the previous, non-interim interior minister, has been the target of multiple assassination attempts. The interior minister becomes target number one of the militants as he is in charge of the domestic Intelligence Bureau, Federal Investigations Authority, and the Frontier Corps. The post of interior minister, however, will effectively be held by Rehman Malik, who served as the late Benazir Bhutto’s security adviser and has also called for continuity in Pakistan’s war on terror participation.

In short, the major defense, foreign policy, and security positions have gone to the PPP. In contrast, the PML-N will take on Pakistan’s other great challenge: the economy. Ishaq Dar and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi are, respectively, the new ministers of finance and commerce. Ahsan Iqbal is the new minister of education and Tehmina Daultana is the minister of culture.

The PPP’s Sherry Rehman, a former newsmagazine editor, is the new information minister, while the PML-N’s Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan is senior minister for communications.

Farooq Naik, the Bhutto-Zardari lead lawyer, is the minister of law and justice. Naveed Qamar of the PPP is minister of ports and shipping (and privitization and investment), while Rana Tanvir Hussain of the PML-N is minister of defense production.

This is the first phase of cabinet appointments. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) could gain representation in the next round.

On Sunday’s Meet the Press, Michael Hayden, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, stated that al-Qaeda’s leadership is based along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and called them a “clear and present danger” to the United States. Whereas Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte denied that the U.S. had engaged in unilateral strikes on Pakistani soil, Hayden was not willing to confirm or deny the reports.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani invited militants who give up their arms to talks. Leaders of the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan stated they would be open to talks if Pakistan gives up its pro-Washington stance. Meanwhile, a recent bombing–believed to be a U.S. strike from Afghanistan–seemed to target Mullah Nazir, a pro-government and anti-al-Qaeda Pakistani Taliban figure.

The National Accountability Bureau, the government’s anti-corruption arm that has also been used for political intimidation, has been abolished by the new government. But there are reports that a new accountability office could open. It remains to be seen how this institution would be apolitical, unless the new government also goes after its friends and not just its foes. Since corruption in Pakistan is widespread, it is foolish to believe in the capacity of self-policing alone. The Gillani government should also embrace greater transparency, enabling civil society and the general public to play a role as watchdog.

Musharraf All Alone in Pindi

Attorney General Malik Qayyum, a senior legal adviser to Pervez Musharraf, has resigned. His departure follows that of many Musharraf allies in recent weeks. The leaves of the Pakistani president have not only withered, they are falling off.

Musharraf is no longer in control of the intelligence services. The heads of the Intelligence Bureau and Military Intelligence have been replaced. Inter-Services Intelligence Director General Nadeem Taj will be leaving soon. Shareefuddin Pirzada, Musharraf’s legal guru, has gone home to his ailing wife.

The PML-Q is in the opposition in the National Assembly and seems to have lost its majority in the Senate, due to defections, deaths, and vacating of seats. The PML-Q’s defections in the Punjab Assembly are even greater.

It seems all that remains are Tariq Aziz and Rashid Qureshi.

UPDATE: 1:04PM – Malik Qayyum is speaking to GEO News right now and rejected reports that he resigned.

Wednesday Notes

  • The PPP and PML-N have yet to finalize all the cabinet posts, though should be done by the weekend. Sherry Rehman will be information minister, which was expected. The PPP will likely get both foreign affairs and defense. BBC Urdu reported yesterday that the PPP’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi will probably be minister of foreign affairs, while the PML-N’s Ishaq Dar is expected to be the finance minister. Both parties seem reluctant to touch the interior ministry.  It’s difficult to see the PML-N accept the two toughest ministries (finance and interior).
  • The Negroponte-Boucher tour remained at the top of Pakistani headlines.
    • The two went to Peshawar, where they met with the NWFP governor. They tried to meet with Asfandyar Wali, but could not, due to security reasons. They went to FATA, specifically in Landi Kotal in the Khyber Agency, which isn’t as bad as some of the other agencies, but faces a rising Taliban presence (marked rise in attacks on NATO supply routes).
    • The duo returned to Islamabad and met with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani. It’s possible they met again with Asif Zardari after his meeting with the PML-N.
    • Javed Hashmi, a senior PML-N MNA, described Negroponte as an “unwanted element,” while Shah Mehmood Qureshi gently differed with his colleague and claimed that the Negroponte visit was preplanned and simply coincided with this whole PM-no cabinet business.
    • Negroponte and Boucher could have also headed to Karachi tonight to meet the governor of Sindh, Ishrat ul-Ibad. It’s been reported that Washington wants the MQM in the central government coalition.
  • Nasrullah Babar said Baitullah Mehsud sent a message to him via an intermediary claiming that he didn’t kill Benazir Bhutto, as his group doesn’t attack women.
  • Noorul Haq Qadri, an MNA from the FATA’s Khyber Agency, noted that the Democrats are calling from a withdrawal from Iraq, but not Afghanistan.

John McCain Sort of Calls for a Democratic Coalition Against ‘Radical Islamic Terrorism’

Republican presidential candidate John McCain gave an important foreign policy address to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council today.

McCain described himself as a “realistic idealist.”

He, as he has done for quite some time, emphasized “the threat of radical Islamic terrorism” as the “transcendent challenge of our time.” The Arizona senator said these individuals seek to strike the United States with the “world’s most terrible weapons” and receive assistance from states that “share with terrorists the same animating hatred for the West.” McCain did not specifically mention any entities in this passage, but later stressed on al-Qaeda and Iran, creating a convenient and non-existent linkage between the two.

In order to combat this threat and advance “free people and free markets,” McCain called for greater ties with “the European Union…the great nations of India and Japan, Australia and Brazil, South Korea and South Africa, Turkey and Israel.” They would form the core of a “League of Democracies.”

McCain continued his indelicate dance between realism and neoconservatism, stating that the belief that autocrats like Mubarak of Egypt, the Saudi royals, and “the generals of Pakistan” provide stability is delusional, while cautioning against “act[ing] rashly or demand[ing] change overnight.” He said, “Change is occurring whether we want it or not.” McCain called on the U.S. to actively shape the this coming change to “benefit humanity” and not “let our enemies seize it for their hateful purposes.”

He argued for a multidimensional approach:

“Prevailing in this struggle will require far more than military force. It will require the use of all elements of our national power: public diplomacy; development assistance; law enforcement training; expansion of economic opportunity; and robust intelligence capabilities. I have called for major changes in how our government faces the challenge of radical Islamic extremism by much greater resources for and integration of civilian efforts to prevent conflict and to address post-conflict challenges. Our goal must be to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the vast majority of moderate Muslims who do not want their future controlled by a minority of violent extremists. In this struggle, scholarships will be far more important than smart bombs.”

McCain remains a ‘national interest first’ guy while adhering to a belief in an ideological struggle that verges on being cosmological. He struggles with two binary views of the world that don’t always gel well together: a) democracies (good) and autocracies (bad); b) supporters of “radical Islamic terrorism” (bad) and its opponents (good). In the end, this tension will likely linger and adjust according to developments on the ground and inside McCain’s head.

There was no mention of Pakistan’s February elections and new prime minister, though McCain says “the democracies of the world…will provide the pillars upon which we can and must build an enduring peace.” This is in large part because McCain and most in Washington have little idea as to how the new government and political players view the “transcendent challenge of our time.” And so, democracy in Pakistan, has little inherent value. If it fails to meet particular “transcendent challenge” benchmarks, then McCain the “realistic idealist” becomes simply a “realistic idealist.”

Rich and John’s Unexcellent Adventure

The big story in Pakistan today was not the swearing in of the new prime minister, but the arrival of Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher. Their two day visit to Pakistan, coming in the midst of a political transition there and prior to the formation of a cabinet, reflects a sense of urgency in Washington and a desire to influence, if not determine, the makeup and policy positions of the incoming government. Their eagerness has been received in Pakistan as overaggressiveness and was widely criticized.

Today, Negroponte and Boucher met with President Pervez Musharraf, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, soon to be outgoing Inter-Services Intelligence Chief Lt. Gen. Nadeem Taj, and Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan. They also met with National Assembly Speaker Fehmida Mirza, People’s Party Co-Chairman Asif Zardari and, seemingly for the first time, Muslim League-Nawaz leader Nawaz Sharif.

Accompanying Zardari was probable foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Hussain Haqqani, an adviser to the late Benazir Bhutto and fellow at the neoconservative Hudson Institute, who some speculate will be Pakistan’s next ambassador to the United States. [The PML-N's Ishaq Dar will likely have the unenviable post of finance minister.]

Haqqani met with Boucher a few weeks ago in Washington. He told the New York Times today, “It is clear that the United States recognizes that there is a substantive change of political actors on the Pakistani stage…there is a new sheriff in town…There is a new political order in Pakistan, and Americans have realized that they have perhaps talked with one man for too long and now there is a new political team.” Ahmed Mukhtar, a senior PPP legislator, seemed to emphasize the need for continuity in Pakistan’s foreign policy.

Neither Negroponte nor Boucher spoke to the media after their meetings, reflecting the former’s refrain that the U.S. seeks a long-term relationship with Pakistan.

Sharif, however, provided a mouthful to the Pakistani press. He said he told the senior American diplomats that the time for a one man show in Pakistan has come to an end, the nation’s foreign policy will be produced after parliamentary debate, and that Pakistan won’t become a “killing field” for a U.S. war. Indicating that Pakistan’s foreign policy will change, Sharif also stated that the Pakistani people rejected Musharraf’s policies. He, however, did not provide any specifics of how those policies would change.

Seated with Sharif in the Negroponte-Boucher meeting was his brother, Shahbaz, potential finance minister Ishaq Dar, Nisar Ali Khan, Ahsan Iqbal, Khawaja Asif, and retired Ambassador Tariq Fatemi. The latter is a senior foreign policy adviser to Sharif and helped draft the PML-N’s election manifesto.

Tomorrow, Negroponte and Boucher will meet with lawyers’ movement leaders Aitzaz Ahsan and Tariq Mehmood, other civil society actors, and defense analyst Talat Masood.

The Negroponte-Boucher visit has been roundly criticized by political commentators and retired diplomats. Former Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokar described the meetings, which took place prior to the formation of a government in Islamabad and hours after the new prime minister was sworn in, as “typical American crude diplomacy” and “heavy handed” interference. He said that Britain or France would not behave similarly.

Some have suggested that Washington asked the PPP not give the PML-N the foreign ministry. Others have also claimed that Washington seeks the inclusion of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) into the governing coalition at the center, presumably as a “secular” party to balance out the PML-N. But if these potential developments do materialize, the PPP also has its own reasons for their realization.

Senior Pakistani journalist Nusrat Javed said that multiple sources have informed him that Negroponte asked Sharif to work with Musharraf as president for five years. Mariana Baabar, another leading Pakistani diplomatic journalist, stated that the Foreign Office in Pakistan asked the State Department to delay the visit until after the government was formed, but their wishes were ignored. However, both Khokhar and another Pakistani commentator, Shafqat Mahmood, opined that the Negroponte-Boucher visit could have been also at the behest of Musharraf.

In the end, the Negroponte-Boucher visit is yet another move by Washington that has widened the gap between it and Pakistan’s opinion shapers and general public.

Monday Notes: New PM; Portfolio Management; The Two Wise Men; Judicial Freedom; Military Changes

  • New Prime Minister: Yousaf Raza Gillani Pakistan was elected as Pakistan’s next prime minister by a wide margin in the National Assembly.  He will be sworn in tomorrow.  Gillani announced that his government will ask for a United Nations investigation into the late Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, order the release of the deposed judges, and implement the Murree Accord signed by the People’s Party and Muslim League-Nawaz.  Sitting in the gallery was Bilawal Zardari, on break from university,  who visibly wept as Gillani spoke of his late mother, Benazir Bhutto.
  • Divvying the Goodies: While Pakistan has a new prime minister, it does not have a functioning cabinet.  Negotiations between the PPP and PML-N have been complicated.
    • One reason is what appears to be the entry of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) into the governing coalition.   While the PPP and MQM have been long-time rivals, the PML-N is less willing to work with the MQM, which it sees as a perpetrator of violence.
    • Additionally, the PPP and PML-N conflict over some of the more visible portfolios.  The PPP seems unwilling to touch the finance minister position, giving the economic uncertainty, while the PML-N is keen on the position of foreign affairs minister.
  • Boucher and Negroponte to Visit Pakistan Tomorrow: Both Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher will be visiting Pakistan tomorrow.  They will meet with not only Prime Minister Gillani, Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, and President Pervez Musharraf, but also with Muslim League-Nawaz leader Nawaz Sharif.  This will probably be Negroponte’s first meeting with Sharif and, from my recollection, it will be the highest ranking U.S. government official Sharif will have met in recent years.  Washington managed to maintain an asinine position of alienating and antagonizing Sharif, at least since the fall, and is now coming to terms with his extreme importance to the political context in Pakistan.
  • Being Judged on the Judges: Tomorrow evening, the deposed judges will be free.  Pressure to push for their restoration by parliament will renew.  A week has passed since parliament first convened.  That means the body has 23 days left to act on the Murree Accord’s pledge to bring back the judges with a parliament resolution.
  • Military Re-Shuffling:
    • Corps Commanders:
      • Lahore:
        • Out: Lieutenant General Shafaat Ullah Shah (re-assigned as Chief of Logistic Staff (CLS) at the General Headquarters);
        • In: Lieutenant General Ijaz Ahmed Bakhshi;
      • Mangla:
        • Out: Lieutenant General Sajjad Akram (new assignment: deputy chairman, Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority;
        • In: Lieutenant General Nadeem Ahmed;
    • General Headquarters:
      • In: Major General Mukhtar Ahmed, removed as director general of the National Accountability Bureau (now director general, GHQ) ;
      • In: Lieutenant General Shujaat Zamir Dar.

Breaking News: Judicial activists enter Justice Iftikhar’s home

Judicial activists have broken the cordon around the home of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who has been under house arrest for over five months. Chaudhry was expected to be released Tuesday night.

Senior leaders of the lawyers’ movement, including Aitzaz Ahsan, stood along with Chaudhry and members of his family on the balcony of his home. Ahsan spoke to the crowd on a megaphone for most of the time. Chaudhry then spoke briefly, thanking the activists for their efforts toward establishing the rule of law in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s newly elected prime minister Yousuf Raza Gillani said today his first act will be to order the release of the detained judges.

Pakistan’s Next Prime Minister: Yousuf Raza Gillani

People’s Party Spokesman Farhatullah Babar just announced Yousuf Raza Gillani as the incoming governing coalition’s nominee for the prime minister.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was to read out the nomination, but PPP spokespeople said he had a cold. A more likely reason is that the young fellow would’ve been unable to handle tough questions surrounding the nomination–specifically, those pertaining to the Amin Fahim saga.

Gillani, a graduate of Government College-Lahore and Punjab University-Lahore, hails from a prominent spiritual-feudal family in Multan. The Seraiki-speaking family claims descent from two Sufi giants, Hazrat Musa Pak and Abdul Qadir Jilani.

Update – 01:00PM (New York): Amin Fahim just finished speaking to GEO News. He said he will be going to Islamabad for the sole purpose of voting for Raza Gillani as PM. He was not consulted on the decision, but said it’s not a problem. Fahim asserted that he won’t leave the PPP, describing it as his own party, the party of PPP workers, and of the poor. He said he was aware quite a while back that he wouldn’t be prime minister.

Bin Laden: Jihad in Iraq Will Free Palestine

Al Jazeera (Arabic) is broadcasting a new audio tape from al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. This is his second audio message in as many days. Bin Laden has not mentioned, as far as I’ve heard so far on the recording, Pakistan or Afghanistan. His focus is Palestine. His major point: jihad in Iraq will lead to the liberation of Palestine. Bin Laden’s audience is Arabs. He’s attempting to 1) claim ownership over the Palestine issue, exploiting the divisions among Palestinians and the deterioration of Gaza; 2) link (and revive) the issue of Iraq, where the insurgency has declined since the fall, with the primordial Arab grievance — Palestine.

Update – 4:05PM (New York): Al Jazeera English has provided a translated segment of the audio tape (see below).

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The Rape of a Nation

Today, on the election of Pakistan’s first female National Assembly speaker, came reports that a woman was raped in the Karachi mausoleum of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founder. The brutal irony, on many levels, is quite obvious.

Karachi, the beloved city of Jinnah the jurist, has suffered from years of endemic crime and lawlessness. Women, whose equality with men Jinnah promoted, face enormous social barriers and even violence.

The crime should serve as a wakeup call to Pakistanis: the fight for women’s rights, despite the gains of female politicians, has a long way to go.

Politicians and political commentators have lauded Fehmida Mirza for her rise to the top of Pakistan’s parliament. They hail her speakership as the birth of a new Pakistan. Now, Dr. Mirza should bring them back to the ground level reality. She should call on them to stand up for victims of violence, like the woman assaulted at Jinnah’s mausoleum (Mazar-e Quaid).

The rape of a woman at Mazar-e Quaid is a matter of shame — not for the victim, but for a nation that has failed to protect its citizenry, particularly women. The shame can be undone if it catalyzes change. And that requires public mobilization.

Why not hold a rally at Mazar-e Quaid, bringing together Karachi civil society, the ulama, the political parties (including the MQM), and others to say enough is enough?

Little is gained from a female speaker of the National Assembly who fails to voice herself on behalf of women’s rights. She is then, just another politician. For Dr. Mirza, here is a test, and an opportunity, to prove otherwise.


Arif Rafiq, a Washington, DC-based consultant on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues. [About]

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Arif Rafiq regularly appears on the John Batchelor Show Friday nights from 09:30-10:00pm Eastern Time. Tune your dial to 770AM in New York or 630AM in DC. The show appears on affiliates in other cities. Listen live online at WABCRadio.com.
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